Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lamont's win good news, bad news...for who?

Everybody seems to have an opinion on the Ned Lamont victory over Joe Lieberman in Tuesday’s Connecticut Democrat Senatorial primary, with no real consensus on either side of the aisle. This is hardly surprising, as the result removes any remaining doubt that each party has deep fissures as we head to the midterms. I’m as uncertain as anybody else as to the cosmic significance of it all, so will just throw out a few random thoughts.

After seeing their first, what was it, 17 or 18 straight endorsed candidates go down in flames in previous elections, the MoveOn/Kos crowd finally gets a win – over a reliably liberal three-term senator! I wonder if they even get the irony? Stepping back a bit, it is the biggest win for the American left since Watergate, which says more about the American left than it does about Lamont.

I think we can now safely say that McCain-Feingold has made it easier for rich candidates to buy their way into office, as spending is limited for everybody but the guy running. We are increasingly seeing the emergence of trust-fund baby candidates such as Lamont who can afford to fund most of their own campaigns. This makes it much more likely that less intellectually rigorous (trying to be kind here!) candidates such as Lamont will be able to get themselves elected despite not having much to offer in the way of substance. Yet another unintended consequence of misguided campaign finance reform laws.

I think that Lieberman still has to be the favorite in the general election. A sizable block of Green, Naderite, and other assorted independents were able to register late and put Lamont over the top, albeit only by the smallest of margins in a state whose Democrats oppose the war and the president by about 4-1. Being Jewish right at this moment also almost certainly hurt Lieberman with the base, which makes up much of primary voters. With the Republicans running an underfunded and ineffective candidate, the potential for Lieberman to peel off moderate and right voters to go with his existing bloc of serious liberals and the working class, while Lamont will be hard-pressed to get much more of the hard left vote than he did this time. Vulnerable Connecticut Republican House candidates could all endorse Lieberman and further build an “all but the far left” voting bloc.

The far left fringe is now officially a viable force within the Democrat Party. The party leadership has abandoned moderates to pander to the extreme. Candidates who refuse to toe the antiwar line will do so at their own peril, as the utter viciousness of the “netroots” movement is now well-established. Lieberman is a guy who votes left around 90% of the time, yet he has been subjected to an endless series of racist slurs (mostly anti-Semitic but most recently anti-black) and a criminal attack on his website. The enabling of such thuggery by Connecticut voters will surely only make it worse in the future as they step up their efforts to crush dissent within the party. Clintonista Lanny Davis has certainly noticed.

That said, it could well end up being a pyrrhic victory for the fringe. Lamont’s entire platform rests on the desire for the US to unilaterally and unconditionally surrender in Iraq, to accept complete and total defeat at the hand of the terrorists there. Even as the war has grown unpopular with over half of the country, is this a message that will resonate with the American people? The antiwar movement’s best hope for electoral success will most likely be in trying to impose its agenda onto Democrat candidates while trying to hide its true agenda from the voting masses, who would be revolted if they spent a couple of hours on DailyKos or the like. If Republicans are successful in tying the national Democrat Party to the MoveOn/Kos fringe, it could be devastating to their chances this fall. To that end, the Lamont victory could put in jeopardy what would seem to be a golden opportunity for them, with Republicans themselves divided on immigration and government spending. The Democrats seem determined to try to rip defeat from the jaws of victory as much as the Republicans seem determined to just forfeit. If the Democrats do manage to survive the damage that the fringe will undoubtedly do to them this cycle, it could spell unmitigated disaster for them in 2008.

It appears that the far left will demand that candidates embrace their agenda (pacifism/isolationism, abortion on demand, racial preferences, etc.) or risk being banished from what was once considered an inclusive party and is now quite the opposite. The message is that you cannot be responsible on national security and be a Democrat, but you can embrace the looniest of far left theory and be a Democrat. It is hard to imagine that a national party can be formed on the McGovernite principles of pacifism, appeasement and burying its head in the sand when faced with external threats, even if some dissent were to be allowed on other issues. That has certainly been a recipe for disaster in the past, and its not like existential threats to our way of life have gone away, they’ve just changed shape.

A related question is what effect this will have on the Republican Party. Will right wing blogs start to have more influence, bringing issues such as pork reform, serious immigration policy, reining in government spending overall and the like back into the party? At the very least, you have to think they will gain influence.

If an antiwar movement does manage to force a withdrawal from Iraq, let’s not pretend that it would stop there. Next would be an attempt to “bring the troops home” from Afghanistan, and then to disengage from the Middle East altogether. You must remember that this movement’s fundamental premise is that America is a bad country, the source of many if not all of the world’s problems, and that it deserves to be defeated. Everything they do is ultimately designed to weaken the US and to empower our enemies, because they truly believe that if the US were to collapse there would be a chance for some Utopian world of peace and socialism. The irony is that it would in all likelihood sow the seeds of a movement toward theocratic governments in most of what was formerly the free world. Not the “theocracy” fantasy that anti-Christian bigots see in today’s US, but the real enchilada. Any time knee-jerk pacifists gain traction in one of the major parties it is very bad for the US. Having two parties who think that defending America is a worthwhile goal keeps us all safer.

To that end, Can anybody be more thrilled at this result than Iran’s mullahs? Yeah, I know, Mr. Rove, put your hand down. A peace movement gaining enough strength to force an American withdrawal from Iraq is the dream scenario for Iran. Their quest for domination of the region is only seriously resisted by the US and Israel, which explains why they are fighting the current two (major) front war in Iraq and Lebanon as they try to buy time for putting the finishing touches on their nuclear weapon program. Much as the British pacifist and American isolationist movements of the 1930’s emboldened the Nazis, so too does the antiwar left aid the cause of Islamic Fascists. American withdrawals from Lebanon in 1983 and Somalia in 1993 were seminal events for the 9/11 terrorists, leading them to believe that the US is a weak country that will not stand up for itself when the going gets tough (a theme that comes up repeatedly in jihadist literature). A withdrawal from Iraq would be the ultimate early Ramadan present for the next US attacker in particular and the cause of Islamic Fascism in general.

In closing, I'll take a stab at answering the question posed in the subject. Winners - Karl Rove, the extreme left, Iran and the Islamofascist movement. Losers - the future Democrat Party, moderate or traditional liberal Democrats and the American people.

UPDATE 8/15/06: The problems with the Lieberman website may have been human error instead of a hack after all, but nobody knows for sure.

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